Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday scenes: Nicaragua site visits

El Porvenir partners with the people of rural Nicaragua to bring clean water, safe sanitation, and tools to sustain their land for future generations. Where better to assist this work than in schools? Yesterday we, board members, were driven around to three schools in the Terrabona region.

At Las Joyas:
Students hung on the fence, curious about their North American visitors.

The organization has provided an elegant handwashing station. The neighborhood has decorated it ...

... and teachers amplify the message that clean hands reduce sickness.

The students performed their festive dance with their visitors.

At a nearby pre-school:
More dancing and some enthusiastic drummers ...

... and three squeaky clean latrines, lovingly painted by parents.

The children had made the girls' stall their own; their teacher displayed their toilet paper holder made from a recycled plastic bleach bottle.

At another school we were feted with skits created for Indigenous People's Day:
Besides getting to dress up, kids acted out the story of how invading Spaniards set native people against each other -- the boys got to "bang-bang" very happily.

Students displayed their native foods and plants ...

... while proud mothers watched.

Next post will be about the community-wide pumping and water delivery system which El Porvenir has enabled the community to build and manage.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday cat blogging

For Morty's fans, here he is, looking somewhat diminished and perhaps shaken by his 9 day adventure away from home. We're giving him an appetite stimulant. He lost at least a pound and half; he's a very bony fellow these days. Thanks to the E.P. for the photo.

So who's this, you may ask. I don't have a name. I met her Thursday afternoon in Managua, Nicaragua, where I'm visiting for a long weekend with the board of the water and sanitation organization El Porvenir. More over the next few days I am sure.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Yes, there is something you can do about this shitstorm we're in ...

If you are a Californian and you've been wondering where you can go to contribute to winning the 2020 election for more equity and more justice, there's an answer. (If you haven't been wondering, you probably should have been if you want to live to fight another day.)
Sign up with Seed the Vote to get yourself in the loop now.

THE PLAN: Hundreds of Bay Area activists will travel to a nearby battleground state (Nevada or Arizona) from October 10 – October 25, 2020. Working closely with local grassroots groups that organize in their communities year-round, we’ll knock on thousands of doors to help defeat Trump. Then we’ll bring skills and commitment back to our local movements to continue fighting for our communities. ...

WHY 2 WEEKS: To make a real impact in 2020, it’s time to think big. We know from past elections that two weeks is the threshold for volunteers to get integrated into a local team, take on leadership and have meaningful conversations with many voters. ...

WHY WORK WITH GRASSROOTS GROUPS: We want to both defeat Trump and build our movements for the long-haul. We will knock on doors with local groups who organize with working class communities of color year-round because they know the best strategies to win in their communities, and they will still be there continuing to build local political power after the election is over.

Sign up now. This sort of effort requires huge work of planning and coordination to make our participation maximally fruitful. I'll be working on this when I get back from my current sojourn in Massachusetts.

Californians can make a difference; let's do it.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

On the class politics of food

Last Friday night, we tried an Impossible Burger at the local Oak Bluffs ale house. If you've been hiding under a rock (don't altogether blame you), the Impossible Burger is a plant based meat substitute that claims to replicate the appearance, texture, and taste of hamburger.

In my judgment, it came close. I won't be entirely sold on how much it resembles the animal meat til I can buy this stuff and cook it myself. But having eaten one, I'm more open than not to this innovation.

Burger King has given the Impossible Burger a try, and the things sell.

Such a substitute, if widely accepted, would feed people who want to eat beef happily. Its invention is what humans do: figure out new ways to feed ourselves by adapting naturally available inputs in novel directions. That creativity is why the planet supports the human population it does today. It's called civilization.

But the good cultural observers at Vox point out that after a couple of years of hype, all is not happy among some trend setters.

... what the burger did become was mass produced. From one restaurant in 2016, the Impossible Burger is now available in more than 10,000 locations worldwide.

Food historian Rachel Laudan argues, “It is easy for ultra-processed to mean ‘industrially processed,’ ‘low class,’ or ‘not to my taste.’ Soft drinks are ultra-processed, wine not. Snack cakes are ultra-processed, home made cakes not.” And the Impossible Burger, for a time, was not considered ultra-processed, enjoying, we could say, the “wine exception.”

There’s a lot wrong with our food system and there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But opposing all mass-market, mass-produced food is elitist and classist — and in this particular case, it’s silly, too.

Three of the biggest harms caused by our current food system are the harms to the environment, to public health through antibiotic resistance, and to animals through factory farming. In order to address all of those, plant-based or lab-produced alternatives to meat must be mass-produced. And if we’re uncomfortable with the fact of mass-production itself then we can’t fix any of the problems it’s currently causing.

Back when I was in the business of serving free meals to hungry people, I became extremely simple minded about "the politics of food." People should have food. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A tale of two expensive places

It's a staple of conversation here on Martha's Vineyard: everything just costs SO much.

And there's truth to that. After all, this is an island. Most everything in stores here has to be brought in by boat or perhaps airplane.

Moreover, the island thrives on a summer tourist economy: visitors come here, many on day trips by ferry, to play and to spend. Naturally the local people understand they should set prices to capture as much of that play money as possible.

As well, some -- though by no means all -- of the seasonal residents here are among East Coast society's winners. There's nothing wrong with expecting those people with their yachts and McMansions to shell out.

There's a strong local agricultural economy, but locally grown food carries boutique prices since it has to support a short growing season and the high labor costs of a place with hardly any cheap housing.

And yet, and yet, to a San Franciscan, this island is an oasis of low gas prices!

Here's what I paid yesterday to fill up:

And here's what ABC News shows my California neighbors are paying at the moment:
Oh, I imagine careful shoppers in the Bay Area can do better, but not by that much. And a lot of the California price goes to infrastructure improvements and climate change mitigation.

But it is still a little amazing to realize I've dropped into a low gas price location.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Eighteen years and counting

On October 7, 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan -- full of rage and ignorant, misbegotten imperial idealism -- in response to the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. Our unequaled military might would speedily overawe a bunch of primitive tribesmen wearing scruffy beards and funny hats, or so we thought. A week later, U.S. flyers began dropping this psyops leaflet threatening death from the skies -- an image repurposed from our imperial escapades in Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I, and Kosovo.
Image via John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq
Our troops are still fighting in that unhappy country and the killing continues. No, there was not much peace before we came crashing in. But the BBC summarizes the current "unrelenting violence":
An average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan throughout the month of August, the BBC has found. ...

"The conflict has a devastating impact on civilians," says Fiona Frazer, human rights chief for the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

"United Nations data strongly indicates that more civilians are killed or injured in Afghanistan due to armed conflict than anywhere else on Earth.

"Although the number of recorded civilian casualties are disturbingly high, due to rigorous methods of verification, the published figures almost certainly do not reflect the true scale of harm."

The US and Afghan militaries routinely deny or fail to report civilian casualty figures.
Last month, 32 Afghan pine nut harvesters — sitting around a fire after a day’s labor in the fields — were killed by a U.S. drone strike.

A few days later: 40+ guests at a wedding party — including 12 children — were killed in a raid by U.S. backed Afghan forces.

Last weekend: 5 more civilians were killed in a U.S. airstrike.

These events barely enter our news stream; the war in Afghanistan is just a few weak notes in the background soundtrack of the national cacophony.

There are rumblings in Congress about ending the "Authorization for the Use of Military Force" (AUMF) which legitimates the endless wars of 9/11. The House of Representatives has passed such a measure as part of the pending military budget. Will the Senate go along? Will the President sign a bill with such a provision?

Win Without War lobbies tirelessly toward that end. Somebody has to do it; they deserve our support.
Speaking of those who need support, U.S. veterans of the endless wars of 9/11 are just about the only group whose unemployment numbers are rising in this full-employment economy. That damage persists, along with the war.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

St. Francis recalled: a blessing of animals

The Rev. Stephen Harding blesses pet dogs after services at Grace Church (Episcopal) in Vineyard Haven, Mass. The critters were remarkably well-behaved in the pews throughout.

Meanwhile, a reminder ...

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Saturday scenery: Martha's Vineyard island early autumn

These are the sights from my daily runs.

Beef resting.

Sometimes the cash crop is flowers.

A sign of the season. The island closes down after the tourists leave. (Yes, there are two other Episcopal congregations which we're sampling.)

Friday, October 04, 2019

Friday cat blogging on St. Francis' feast day

Representations of St. Francis often render him gentle and mild -- a bit of an empty-headed softie who talked to birds and animals. Saints may be gentle and mild at times, but they are not soft. Tales of saints confront us with people in whom love burned so strongly that their lives are humanly incomprehensible to us.

After all, Francis is reputed to have attempted to interrupt the Crusades by directly approaching the Muslim Sultan peacefully in 1219. Apparently the force of his holiness momentarily turned combatants from slaughter to dialogue. Whether the legend is true or not, the Islamic world has long accepted Franciscan friars as the keepers of their shared holy places.

Francis lived within the pronouncement in the Biblical story of creation: "And God saw everything that God had made, and behold it was very good. ..."

A friend wrote of St. Francis and our animals:

For Francis, like so many Christian mystics before and after him, we are all siblings and kin, related to one another and to God in Christ.

In truth, as anyone who has lived with or lives with a member of another species knows, these siblings and kin are gifts of God in our lives more than we can say. They are blessings. They bless us. They teach us what it means to be loved by God. ...

We need all the help we can get to face up to a love so large it can scorch as well as give comfort.

On this feast of St. Francis, I give thanks for the pure gift of the cat Morty's return after nine days in the wild, for the wild and painful love that his apparent departure uncovered in his human companions, and for our continued time together, however long that may be.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

They die trying ...

I still remember the shock I felt when I first learned that people died while trying to walk across the southwest deserts in order to enter the United States. I really had had no idea such a thing happened in this country. It was perhaps 1972; I researched the scant available accounts of migrant deaths and wrote the story up for the Catholic Worker.

Stephanie Leutert from the University of Texas at Austin has found a unique window on the story of deaths of migrants in the desert. She got access to the notebooks in which Brooks County Sheriff Urbino “Benny” Martinez keeps a record of every time his force finds a body or is called to remove a human skull. Leutert was unprepared for what she encountered:

Indeed, I was wholly unprepared for what [the 2018 Human Remains binder] contained, and the same was true of the similar binders stashed in a filing cabinet in a nearby room, one for each year starting in 2009. I hadn’t expected to see so many women in the case files—certainly not women who carried lipgloss, beaded bracelets and fanny packs. I hadn’t expected to see so many older crossers in their late 50s and 60s, people who were found with reading glasses and who had children and grandchildren already in the United States. I was not expecting so many people who had died trying to get back to families left in the United States.

I also hadn’t expected to be reading love letters, deportation papers and hospital notes found in pockets; looking at wedding rings on left hands and pictures of smiling partners and children tucked into wallets; or analyzing some of the more curious sentimental items that people carried with them, including a bag of pebbles and seashells, two signed baseballs, and a stuffed animal in the shape of a horse. Yet such details—and so many others—filled every page. ...

Leutert plans a series of articles about what she discovered ... I will be following.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

All who wander are not lost

Tonight, driving home on a dark country road, our courtesy niece Tara saw what looked like a cat in the headlights. She leaped out, scooped the animal up, and came running into this house screaming: "Is this Morty?"

Yes, it was and is.

He's scrawny, thirsty, and has a lot to yowl about. But after 9 days away, Morty has come home and apparently found more life.

We are stunned, happy, and prepared to take him to the vet at 8am tomorrow to evaluate what we might have to do for him.

Blog will be on hold until I recover my senses; this sure beats thinking about struggling against the Orange Menace!

Thanks be!

Juul backs off

Juul hoped to defend its drug-delivery vaping profits by promoting Prop. C on San Francisco's November ballot. San Francisco voters have been buried under millions of dollars worth (?) of direct mail telling us that this ordinance, which would have undone the city's regulations of vaping product sales, would help protect young people from nicotine. Yeah, sure.

But for the moment at least, the company is ending its support for the phony measure it placed on our ballot.

Juul will end its support for Proposition C, the San Francisco ballot measure that the vaping company has spent millions of dollars promoting through political ads, election mailers and canvassers. ...

Juul’s about-face is believed to be the first time a corporation has invested millions of dollars into a San Francisco ballot measure, only to withdraw its support shortly before voting begins, said Jon Golinger, a San Francisco political consultant who teaches election law at Golden Gate University. In the rare instances when a ballot measure backer has withdrawn their effort before an election, it was because the issue was resolved or the measure became moot, he said.

“That is historic,” Golinger said. “A colossal failure of a ballot measure campaign that will go into the history books as a cautionary tale for corporations attempting to use the ballot box this way in the future.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Score one for the general welfare.

Hong Kong on my mind today

Reports flow in.

People just want something -- freedom, justice, a chance for something different.
In 2010, these signs were still ubiquitous in Democratic cities in the United States -- but in Hong Kong? Yet there they were. Prescient, perhaps.

Amid the enterprise and the bustle, something was stirring in Hong Kong.

Monday, September 30, 2019

How we know what we think we know: polling basics

Since the Democratic presidential primary contest and reactions to the Trump impeachment inquiry are both going to inspire feverish poll taking, it seems worthwhile to share here some basics of what these mathematical wizards do. They are not always right, but they are not just pulling the numbers in the media out of their asses either.

I like this from Pew which explains how talking with less than 1000 people can stand in for, and reveal reasonably accurately, the views of a country of nearly 330 million.
The clip is the introduction to a valuable series which explores the concepts and practices involved. I'll probably pass on some more of them during the 2020 election cycle.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The impeachment inquiry is not a spectator sport

A house of cards cannot withstand a shitstorm.
So remarks an insightful friend.

It's important that those of us in the cheap seats outside the Beltway understand that we didn't get to this place through the goodness of the hearts of Democrats in Congress. This may not be so obvious to people who live in deep blue locales where our Congresscritters have long called for impeachment. It has not been obvious to those of us who are Nancy Pelosi's constituents because, in national matters, while occupying the high Constitutional office of House Speaker, she ignores us. But in areas where many Democratic Congresscritters have been avoiding calls for impeachment, especially new ones -- the "front liners" who so many activists worked so hard to elect in 2018 -- they've been hearing from dissatisfied supporters.
... August had been a challenge for the party’s rank-and-file, as activists and angry citizens back home browbeat them at town halls, grocery stores, and local events for the party’s unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump. “We spent all summer getting the shit kicked out of us back home,” said one Democrat who received such treatment.

... grassroots anger was translating into primary challenges, [Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md] noted, and needlessly furious constituents. Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a champion of doing nothing when it came to Trump, had recently counted as many as 111 primaries, far more than a typical cycle.

... The [Ukraine phone call] news had landed like a bomb in a Democratic caucus that was already ready to explode. Calls to impeach Trump rained down from the party’s left flank and its presidential candidates. On Friday evening, Democrats were bracing for a backlash back home. “It’s going to be a brutal weekend for a lot of people, especially those who haven’t spoken for impeachment,” one Democrat predicted. Indeed it was. Democrats, including front-liners, spent the weekend furiously texting and calling each other as they worked through how to respond to Trump’s latest lawlessness. “People are pissed,” said another Democrat over the weekend. “Front-liners are pissed! And not even the ‘progressive’ front-liners either.”
The pissed off people giving recalcitrant Democrats such a bad time are ORGANIZED. The Impeach Now coalition, including By The People, CREDO Action, Indivisible, March For Truth, MoveOn, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Public Citizen, Stand Up America, Women’s March, and others, has planned a campaign to keep the pressure on for the next two weeks -- to keep impeachment moving.

Sign up here. Yes. You'll get more email. But millions of us have to do this stuff -- make calls, write letters, show up -- if we want to have a chance to live to fight another day for more justice and better governance. And supposing Dems get this through the House, we'll have to beat up on Senators ...

For the folks who worked so hard to turn Reno blue in 2018:
Republican Congressman Mark Amodei from Nevada District 2, which is anchored by Washoe County, was the first GOP member of Congress to support a full inquiry, if not yet impeachment. According to the Nevada Independent:
“Let’s put it through the process and see what happens,” Amodei, the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, said on a call Friday with reporters, adding that he believes Congress is justified to look into the matter.

... “Using government agencies to, if it’s proven, to put your finger on the scale of an election, I don’t think that’s right,” he continued. “If it turns out that it’s something along those lines, then there’s a problem.”
Mr. Amodei may be seeing the writing on the wall. Reno is both growing and changing demographically. This is hard on long time residents, but could be good for Democrats. Amodei was elected in 2011 to a bright red seat. But Democrats have been winning in the town in Presidential years; meanwhile Amodei's margins have been dropping. He won by 21 percentage points in 2016 (while Trump carried his Congressional district by 52-39). In 2018 he won by 16 percentage points while Democrat Jacky Rosen running for Senate was carrying Reno by 6840 votes.

If the 2020 election is a referendum on Trump, which it will be if the abuser-of-power-in-chief is still running, Mr. Amodei might even be in some trouble himself.

The times they are a-changing. Let's keep on pushing.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Saturday special with fund appeal

Our courtesy niece -- the world best Women's Nordic Combined athlete (ski jumping followed by cross-country racing) -- will be with us this weekend. TARA WON EVERY SINGLE RACE LAST WINTER!!

Because of stupid priorities that aren't good for women in highly technical, expensive, sports, US athletic organizations don't fully fund this Wonder Woman! Tara is looking to win a medal for the USA at the first ever World Championships this winter. Can you help her do it? Be part of supporting a true champion! Click here: Road to Oberstdorf 2021.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Friday cat blogging

Morty is no more. He seemed to be adjusting well to his Martha's Vineyard home as I posted last Friday. But right from the get-go, he showed a strong determination to get out of the house. He never did that at home. We didn't think about it much.

But last Saturday he succeeded in opening a sliding screen door and apparently "took off for the territory." There's no sign of him since, but we assume he was ready to curl up and die and got his wish. There are no predators here really. And there are infinite woodsy places for a small, weak cat to hunker down.

The Erudite Partner and I had worked so hard to get him more or less healthy and then to get him across the country that we'd sort of forgotten what a frail old boy he was. He was 14 years old.

After all, in the last two years he'd lost his vision and recovered it thanks to blood pressure meds, gone on thyroid suppressing food, needed topical appetite stimulant at times to keep him eating, undergone subcutaneous rehydration in our unskilled hands, grown some kind of tumor that led to a persistent nose bleed, suffered the indignity of multiple courses of antibiotics squirted down his throat, seemed to have failing kidneys so he had to be enticed to drink from an indoor fountain ... and then we uprooted him. During the trip he demonstrated his escape artistry. We didn't understand how strong his drive was to just leave.

So Morty got what he wanted, at least as best we can understand. He rubbed against each of us that morning and took off. Whatever love is between humans and cats, all three of us had it.

We subjected Morty to most of what modern veterinary medicine had to offer to an old cat. The parallel to what modern medicine offers to frail elderly people is haunting. Lots of us don't want that, but we'll be lucky to avoid the human equivalent when the time comes.

We're heart-broken as you'd imagine. Go in peace, good cat.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

That other existential threat we live under

On this date, it feels right and proper to remember Stanislav Petrov -- an obscure Soviet Russian airforce officer whom most of us can thank for the fact we're alive today.

He was on the overnight shift in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 1983, when the computers sounded an alarm, indicating that the U.S. had launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Then as now, in both Russia and in the United States "babysitting" the early warning systems that underlie nuclear powers "deterrent" forces is a surprisingly low prestige job. These guys are central to launching Armageddon, but mostly it is a posting to mind-numbing routine, isolation, and boredom.

But when Stanislav Petrov saw the warning that September night, he had an intuition that something was not right. Tensions with the U.S. were sky-high: the Soviet Union had just blasted a Korean civilian airliner out of the air -- a Congressman was among 269 passengers killed. But the Russian expectation was that any U.S. attack would a monstrous, full scale launch, not just five missiles.

... we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union's military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn't move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan."

Petrov sensed something wasn't adding up. ...

After several nerve-jangling minutes, Petrov didn't send the computer warning to his superiors. He checked to see if there had been a computer malfunction.

He had guessed correctly.

"Twenty-three minutes later I realized that nothing had happened," he said in 2013. "If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief."


Petrov didn't get a medal for saving the world. Then, as now, military bosses were more embarrassed that their systems didn't work properly than glad about the result. He was reprimanded for failing to fill out his log book properly.

He told his story after the end of the Cold War and died a couple of years ago without much recognition.

These days, missile operators wouldn't have 20 minutes to stew. Now incoming nukes can arrive in 7.5 minutes, so Putin and Trump only have that long to decide whether to respond to a warning. For all that has happened since 1983, the two countries still point hundreds of missiles at each other, forces whose firing would at minimum end civilization as we have known it. To keep up on the insane threat that nuclear weapons pose to all of us, I recommend the podcast Press the Button from the Ploughshares Fund. Amazingly, it is quite cheerful, despite its dire subject.

In another nuke news development, Foreign Policy reports that in 1979, a U.S. satellite system deployed to help enforce the 1963 Partial (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty, picked up the telltale signal of a nuclear explosion in the ocean south of Africa. Analysts rapidly concluded the bomb was belonged to the state of Israel. The Carter administration of the time concluded that it didn't want to suffer the domestic political fallout from confirming knowledge of Israeli nukes. So they classified the report and hid it away.

The Carter administration was so afraid to enforce the PTBT against Israel’s 1979 violation that it did what it could to erase or keep hidden evidence of its detection of a test. Subsequent administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, went along with this, and the U.S. government still pretends it knows nothing about any Israeli nuclear weapons.

... What Israel says—or doesn’t say—about its nuclear weapons is its own affair. But the United States should not agree to muzzle itself.

Seems right. Here's another essential threat we ought to be interrogating those aspiring Democratic presidential candidates about. None of their plans mean much if we make a mistake and blow the planet to smithereens.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Distract the #ToddlerinChief now!

So the U.S. political system is limping toward impeachment. The threat to democracy and rule of law is so great that my brilliant, infuriating, decent, and sometimes wise Congresscritter has invoked one of our underappreciated, authentically radical, founding generation:

The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.

Getting back to our founders, in the darkest days of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, “The times have found us.” The times found them to fight for and establish our democracy.

Nancy Pelosi

A couple of days ago I had flagged a bit of game theory about impeachment by politics scholar Daniel Drezner which still seems worth pondering:

It is safe to assume that Trump will continue to abuse the powers of the presidency as long as he is in office. The Ukraine example shows that he is not above using presidential authority for partisan gain. Furthermore, when he is not doing those things, he is pursuing other policies that harm the U.S. economy and the national interest.

Would impeachment stop any of that? No, not directly. What it would do, however, is distract the heck out of him. To say that Trump can be easily distracted would be an understatement — his short attention span occupies a healthy portion of the #ToddlerinChief thread. Sharpiegate exemplified how Trump obsessed about a small thing so much that it became a more scandalous thing.

... So why impeach Trump? Because he will obsess about it. The moment it becomes a live option, the moment a trial in the Senate seems conceivable, he will talk about nothing else. He will rant to his staff and bore foreign leaders about it. He loves a fight. And every moment Trump thinks about impeachment is a moment he is not thinking about doing even more reckless things, like trying to compromise the independence of the Fed, or launching a larger trade war, or stumbling into a real war.

Let me be very clear: I am suggesting that the House impeach Trump for two reasons: 1. He has committed high crimes and misdemeanors; and 2. Impeachment will distract Trump from further harming the national interest.

... Trump is not going to stop doing what he is doing, unless he gets distracted by something else. In a zero-sum world, it is far better to have him obsess about his political survival rather than, say, nuking a hurricane. In the zero-sum political world that Trump has made, impeaching him is the best possible response strategy to his abuses of power.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

How dare we?

The media describe her speech as "emotional." That's a dismissive adjective, especially when affixed to a young woman. If you have not heard Greta Thunberg's speech at the UN Climate Summit, you should listen to this clip which is one of the fuller versions available. It's not that long ...

If you really understood the situation and kept on failing to act, you would be evil -- and that I refuse to believe. ... How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just business as usual and some technical solutions? ... You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. ... The world is waking up and change is coming whether you like it or not.

Yes, she's "angry." That's dismissive too. But how could she not be?

On YouTube, the comments on this clip are full of fury about the applause in the soundtrack. What's there to clap about?
The challenge remains: how can well meaning people respond when the problem is our entire economic and social system? I've always been extremely wary of advocacy of personal solutions to societal, collective, problems. Sure let's recycle as much as we can; let's try to reduce our use of plastics and carbon intensive energy. But personal tweaks to our consumption habits are not going to do the job; sadly, personal solutions too often encourage no more than self-satisfaction and an assumption of smug superiority.

So knowing what Greta Thunberg knows -- what we all know if we dare to pay attention -- shoves us back into collective political struggle, that tiresome, grubby arena of compromises and imperfect half-measures. But social rehabilitation is going to require power, the stuff of politics.

The kids are organizing; we can weigh in with them. We really have no choice. They just might save humanity's short-sighted asses.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Political appearances

Gotta love this. The Boston Globe [paywall] has hit on one of the most heartening developments of the election season: these aspiring Democratic presidents have found a sort of business uniform that suits the work they are doing. These "uniforms" must greatly reduce the quantity of attention they have to give to dressing for daily exposure to meetings and and in front of hopeful, anxious citizens and campaign workers. Just perhaps, having solved the female clothes issues for the moment, their plans and intentions are indeed being listened to.

One of my hopes for a Democratic administration elected in 2020 is that we'll be able to stop looking at pictures of phalanxes of monochromaticly white, old men in dark suits (often ill-fitting) wearing slightly shiny white shirts (permanent press?) and slick colored ties (silk, real or synthetic). They are boring and they don't look like the people of this country. It would mean a lot to me to see federal officials who look more like all of us. They won't all be paragons of leftist virtue, but they might at least be acquainted with some regular people.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

E. Jean has made the horrors of #MeToo delightful; how about that?

So what did the E.P. and I do to fill the hours on the road driving across the country? Why listen to podcasts and books, naturally. E. Jean Carroll's What Do We Need Men For? had us laughing out loud for miles on end. She reads it herself; I can't imagine anyone else could perform this with such verve and appropriate emphasis.

Men have had enough nice books written about them. Not this one, Ladies.

Carroll is the longstanding advice columnist for Elle. Since I'm a feminist, leftist lesbian in good standing who lives on the West Coast, I'd never heard of her until she went on the interview circuit for this book.

Carroll is getting all sorts of notice because she included the nasty tale of how the New York City "Real Estate Tycoon" sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s. They both ran among the fringes of the Big Apple's Beautiful People -- but the story of his pinning her against a wall and jamming his penis into her is as familiar and tawdry as male license usually is. She explains why she's never talked about this before:

Before we begin, the two great handicaps to telling you what happened to me in Bergdorf's are: A) the man I will be talking about -- not to mention his team, his lawyers, his party, his friends on Fox News, etc. -- will deny it -- as he has denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by at least sixteen credible women, namely, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Cathy Heller, Temple Taggart McDowell, Karena Virginia, Bridget Sullivan, Tasha Dixon, Mindy McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Jennifer Murphy, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Summer Zervos, and Cassandra Searles; and B) I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.

His admirers can't get enough of hearing that he's rich enough, lusty enough, and powerful enough to be sued by and to pay off every splashy porn star or Playboy Playmate who "comes forward," so I can't imagine how ecstatic the poor saps will be to hear their Walking Phallus got it on with an old lady in the world's most prestigious department store ...

For all the venom there, that bitterness is in some ways the antithesis of the spirit this book.

The 75-year old E. Jean Carroll really did go on her own road trip, driving her Prius "Miss Bingley" accompanied by her dyed blue-headed poodle Lewis Carroll, visiting small U.S. towns named after women, eating in diners named after women, and asking women and a few men the book's title question: "What do we need men for?" Though many are puzzled, a goodly quantity reply with a hearty "Nothing" while sharing their pains and disappointments.

Along the way, Carroll tells her own story of growing up as a socially naive, boy-crazy cheerleader and aspiring sorority beauty queen in Indiana, and finding her way in a small town culture of groping, grasping, entitled men. When she left the rural heartland to find her fortune in the big city, she attracted the unwelcome attentions of a Mafia mobster. She also has lived a life of wide ranging accomplishment and adventure which she merely alludes to without elaboration, including supporting black activists in apartheid South Africa and trekking across Papua New Guinea.

But this book is about sharing the saga of the various Most Hideous Men of My Life. She begins:

I don't know yet which of the foul harassers, molesters, traducers, swindlers, stranglers, and no-goods will make the list, but, Ladies! I warn you. Bad fellows have done bad things to your advice columnist.

This will not be pleasant for you to read. I am sorry. But if we all just lean over and put our heads between our knees, the horrid fainting feeling will pass. No one need be carried from the room.

In fact, you might find yourself rolling on the floor, laughing.

It's obvious that in answering her readers' letters, Carroll has heard everything and enters deeply into the lives of a wide array of women. This is a wonderfully respectful book; all those journalists sent to red states to interview Trump supporters in diners could learn a lot from this old lady who so obviously relates to and cares about all sorts and conditions of U.S. women. And has, almost miraculously, figured out how to transform insult into humor. Enjoy.
Reading this by ear, I didn't know it was illustrated until I snagged it from the library. The print version is full of hilarious pictures of E. Jean at many ages. Here she is on this odyssey:

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Global Climate Strike down-island

A determined band of climate activists gathered at noon on Friday at the island's crazy crossroads, the 5 Corners intersection in Vineyard Haven. Here as much traffic as there is around here tries to go every which way. We encouraged honking in sympathy. There was plenty.

There were some imaginative signs which looked as if they had been held in reserve for repeated use over a long haul.

Young people took center stage. After all, it's their future.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday cat blogging

Time to complete the saga of Morty's excellent adventure crossing the country with his devoted staff.

Despite our best efforts, Morty continued to escape his cat palace/jail in the back of the SUV.
Looks pretty posh doesn't it?

But he didn't think so -- so next thing we'd know, he would wriggle his way out. We gave up and Erudite Partner kept him calm on her lap.

But Morty faced one more great trial before we arrived at our island destination: the forty-five minute ferry ride from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven. For this ordeal, we imprisoned him in his mesh carrier before taking him up on deck.

Once arrived, he found a nice corner from which to survey his new domain (and doze).

He's also determined to assist the E.P. as she works on her book.
He's having a pretty good life.

A day of Global Climate Strike begins in Aquinnah

Under the auspices of the Aquinnah Cultural Center (that's a community institution through which the Wampanoag Tribe interfaces with the white residents of their lands) we marked the morning of the international cry against enveloping climate disaster at Martha Vineyard Island's western tip.

Pipe music set the mood ...

... as a somber crowd gathered in the glorious morning light.

After a young man shared his hopes and fears, an elder offered a benediction for the day:

"Go in peace. But always go in purpose."

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